Abdulmukith Ahmed/Muslim Council of Britain
Debate continues within the wake of a high-profile Radio Four Lady’s Hour interview with Zara Mohammed, the primary lady common secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain. Mohammed was pressured reside on air to reply a query about what number of feminine imams there are in Britain. Following accusations of hostile questioning from host Emma Barnett, the dialogue pivoted to a broadly misunderstood concern in Britain and past: the position of Muslim girls in non secular areas.
To dispel a few of these misconceptions, it’s essential to know the various experiences of Muslim girls in quite a few non secular roles and communities all over the world. There are sophisticated causes for the shortage of ladies in management roles however that isn’t to say that no progress has been made on updating gender disparities in Islamic non secular life.
Ladies’s voices in Muslim communities
Whether or not questions on girls’s roles in mosques are raised inside the Muslim neighborhood itself or by wider British society, Muslim girls’s personal views and practices are key.
Muslim girls are more and more calling for extra mosques to incorporate them. Organisations such because the Muslim Ladies’s Community UK, Religion Issues and Residents UK have urged mosques to open up areas for ladies and to incorporate them in mosque management. The Mosques and Imams Nationwide Advisory Board and the Muslim Council of Britain have issued related suggestions, as has the Vibrant Scottish Mosques initiative. The Muslim Council of Britain has additionally launched a programme of management coaching for ladies. These initiatives additionally construct on a longtime historical past of ladies as Islamic students.
In some contexts, girls have reacted in opposition to male-dominated mosques by establishing mosques which are led by girls. The primary women-only mosque within the US, The Ladies’s Mosque of America, opened in Los Angeles in 2015, mirroring women-only mosques which have served the Hui neighborhood in China for a number of hundred years. Within the UK, the Muslim Ladies’s Council launched an initiative in 2015 to ascertain a brand new women-led mosque in Bradford. The deliberate mosque can be open to ladies and men. Prayers the place each ladies and men partake can be led by a male imam.
A extra radical innovation is the Inclusive Mosque Initiative established in London in 2012, which gives an area for worship with out gender segregation and works with girls imams corresponding to Naima Khan. American feminine imam Amina Wadud has led gender-mixed prayers in Oxford, London and elsewhere. Different gender and LGBTQ+ inclusive developments have emerged in Canada, the US, France, Germany and Denmark.
Nonetheless, opinions are divided about girls’s participation in mosques. My interview research with Muslim girls within the UK and Norway discovered that they had been extremely appreciative of devoted mosque areas for ladies. Some additionally needed larger affect for ladies in mosque governance. Whereas some sought recommendation from imams deemed to be supportive of ladies, others had been essential of imams harbouring conservative views on girls’s roles.
The individuals agreed, nonetheless, that solely males could be imams and lead prayers for gender-mixed audiences. This rule was seen as rooted in non secular prescriptions and as such was not up for debate. The ladies additionally recommended that “genuine” or true Islam helps girls’s rights and equal worth, whereas “cultural” or “conventional” types of Islam deny this.
Ladies’s roles in mosques
Mosques are homes of non secular worship that additionally operate as neighborhood hubs for social occasions, welfare providers, charitable actions, political engagement and even sports activities. They’re usually ruled by male-dominated boards and the primary non secular management position is held by the male imam.
Whereas solely males have a spiritual responsibility to wish on the mosque, girls are more and more collaborating in mosques all through the UK, Europe and North America.
Some mosques are welcoming and facilitate girls’s participation by way of separate entrances and prayer rooms. These areas permit girls to train non secular management in women-only contexts together with main girls’s prayer. Different mosques are much less conventional.
General, Muslim girls’s complicated engagement with mosques reveals each compliance with, and challenges to, male energy and authority. Debates about girls’s management, authority and participation in mosques, then, are clearly right here to remain. Whereas some could also be extra polarising than others, these discussions increase elementary questions on democratic governance, gender equality, non secular freedom and self-determination. No matter individuals’s views, it needs to be evident that in relation to the complicated concern of ladies’s roles in mosques, evidence-based approaches are at all times greatest.
Line Nyhagen has obtained funding from the European Fee's sixth framework programme (2007-2011).